I arrived in Qatar on the Sunday evening, waited in the customary long queue at customs,(no pun intended) then went straight to bed once I arrived at my hotel. Due to the Wednesday start , Monday was a working day, with the pro-am on the Tuesday, so Paul played nine holes on Monday morning, and spent the rest of the day on the range and putting green. Our pro-am time on Tuesday morning was 6.50…Ouch!! That meant a 4.45 alarm call. I had great intentions of spending some time in the gym this week, but the early rises soon put paid to that idea. The pro-am passed without incident, our partners being three businessmen from Lebanon. Their English was very good, so the day went smoothly, although Paul had hoped to be playing with Scotland manager Gordon Strachan, Wales manager Chris Coleman, and tv pundit Andy Gray. They played in the group behind us with John Daly. Even big John said he could understand wee Gordon and his patter!! Paul still managed to find time to have dinner with Gordon, along with Stephen Gallacher and Marc Warren, and he had the boys in stitches all night. On entering the restaurant at their hotel, the waitress asked for some details….”Five foot six and ginger” replied the Scotland boss. It went straight over the poor girls head, but you can imagine the three players’ reaction to it.
Onto the serious stuff, and on Wednesday we were paired with Robert Karlsson(again) and Branden Grace. Again this was a friendly 3 ball, with all players and caddies getting on well. Most of the day was spent winding up Roberts’ caddie, Dan, who is one of the younger caddies on tour, and a bit vain with it, so he was the whipping boy for the day. Chippie took advantage of the pleasant atmosphere, skipping round in a 5 under 67, topped by an eagle 2 at the par 4 16th. Thursday morning wasn’t such a jolly affair. An early tee-time, added to bad start by Karlsson and Grace, and throw in Chippie just been generally grumpy, meant there wasn’t much banter to be had. Paul admitted he just wasn’t in the best of moods. “I’ve seen you worse” I told him, but that didn’t cut any ice. Anyhow, Paul didn’t play his best, but battled away for a 2 under 70, which was in decent position going into the weekend.
Friday was a much better day in prospect….we had some wind. The first two days had been mostly calm, which was very unusual in Doha, so I was glad to see the flags fluttering as I arrived at the course. Paul played his best golf of the week so far, shooting 69, and could have been a couple better without being greedy. However, it moved us up the leaderboard, inside the top ten and just two shots off the lead. It was very bunched, with almost 20 players within 4 shots of the lead, so a low one was required, as there is always someone who comes out the pack. As it happened, it came from our playing partner, Mikko Illonen, who zipped round in 66, to be in a play-off with Sergio Garcia, who had shot 65. It had been calm again after the breeze of Friday, and Paul played lovely, but didn’t get the reward for his efforts with the putter, and a 70 was the result. This left us just outside the top ten. Paul was beside himself, as he had felt it was an opportunity missed, and I had to agree, but on the positive side, it was a huge improvement on the previous week, in both ball striking and putting, and was very encouraging for the season ahead. As is the norm with this tournament, it was a quick pack of the bag, then straight to the airport to catch our flight to Dubai, where we will complete the final leg of the desert swing, and a certain Tiger Woods will be teeing it up!!!
I landed in Dubai on Saturday evening from Qatar, and I was like chippie after a 3 putt par five. My flight had been delayed an hour, I was sitting next to the biggest person on the plane, and the customs queue was enormous. I was meant to land at 8pm. By the time I eventually got to my hotel it was after 10.30. Fortunately to soften the blow, I had Sunday off, so I had a long lie. My roommate Ritchie really took advantage though. He slept non stop right through till 2pm. And I thought I liked my kip!! I took my clothes to the launderette and had a generally lazy day. On Monday Paul just chipped and putted, as he had a sore neck, so that was a fairly short day, and on Tuesday we played a few holes, as Paul’s neck had improved. By the time Wednesday came, I was ready for the tournament to start, but we had the pro-am to play first. We had a good team, one or two who Paul knew already, so that was good. But it was slow…dreadfullt slow. 26 teams squashed into an 18 hole shotgun start meant it took us 5hours and 40 minutes to go round. My feet were on fire after the round. Paul’s neck was still bothering him, and he was thinking of pulling out after nine holes, in case he made it worse for the opening round, but he soldiered on, making a few birdies, so all was well. Our pro-am am start was .7.30am, and our first round time was 7.45, so it was another early alarm. Paul appeared to be half asleep, as he bogeyed the first two holes. However, he soon woke up, and played lovely, knocked in a few chances, and finished up shooting 68. 4 under, and a lovely start. Friday was similar to the 2nd round the previous week, with Paul struggling with his ball striking, but again he battled away, and still managed a 71, which saw us safely through to the weekend.
It had been a fairly long week, and we had been away from home for 3 weeks, and everyone was beginning to get a little weary, caddies and players alike. On Saturday we played with Soren Kjeldsen, who is a nice guy, so him and Paul chatted quite a bit. This kept things light hearted, as Paul was beginning to get frustrated. Playing nicely, but not converting the chances, a level par 72 was the end result, so we hit a few balls and did some putting after the round to find something for the last round. Again on the Sunday, we played with Roberts Karlsson for the fifth time in 3 weeks. It was still a good draw, as Robert is very good to play with. Paul played lovely for the first dozen or so holes, hitting nice putts but they just weren’t dropping. After missing his birdie on the 13th, he pulled his tee shot on the 14th into the sand, hit it into a bush, then made a great recovery to get away with a bogey 5, however the damage was done, and he parred in for a one over 73. Robert on the other had who had struggled most of the way round, chipped in at the 17th for eagle, and made birdie on the 18th to shoot 2 under. It always amazes me how this game works, but that’s just golf. Within 15 minutes of finishing the round, Chippie was on his way back to his hotel, as I was to mine. All of a sudden the trip was over and it was time to head home. I had dinner and a few drinks watching the football on Sunday night, then it was a 2.45pm flight back to Glasgow on Monday…..Ahh , bliss!!!
We now have at least 5 weeks off, when our next event, The Moroccan Open, clashes with the Scottish League Cup final at Celtic Park, and I’m sure you know who’s playing. The big question is, will we be in Agadir or Parkhead? Watch this space…..